This summer, a scale model of TU Delft's Flying V jetliner took flight. The new aircraft carries passengers in its wings and reports being 20% more fuel-efficient.
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Project leader Dr. Roelof Vos and his team took the 22.5 kg and 3-meter wide-scale model to an airbase in Germany. There they worked together with a team from Airbus to get the aircraft to take-off, fly a number of test maneuvers until the batteries were nearly empty and landed.
“One of our worries was that the aircraft might have some difficulty lifting-off since previous calculations had shown that ‘rotation’ could be an issue. The team optimized the scaled flight model to prevent the issue, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. You need to fly to know for sure," said in a statement Vos.
The trial was deemed a successful one as rotation on take-off was performed easily at the speed of 50 mph (80 km/h). However, as it was just an experimental model, how the real jetliner would perform in an actual flight is still uncertain.
From this scale model trial, the researchers already concluded that they had to change the center of gravity of the aircraft and fix the antenna to improve telemetry.
The next steps for the team are to use the data acquired during the flight to build an aerodynamic software model of the aircraft. This will mean they can test the jetliner in a flight simulator and use the outcomes for research and development.
The Flying-V has been created to be a highly energy-efficient long-distance airplane. The passenger cabin, the cargo hold, and the fuel tanks have all been placed in the wings, introducing the V-shape that the plane is named after.
TU Delft researchers' computer calculations estimate that the aircraft’s superior aerodynamic shape and decreased weight can reduce fuel consumption by 20% compared to today’s most advanced aircraft.